Sunday, July 31, 2011

3 Odd Coinkydinks

A week ago I was walking home from work, totally absorbed in work-related thoughts. As I approached the gate to my condo complex, I dug absentmindedly in my bag for my keys.  I grabbed them, stuck one in the lock, and turned.  The knob would not move.

I sighed in exasperation and started wiggling the key.  The property, which covers half a city block, is surrounded by a fence, which has several gates in it at various intervals.  Because the gates are outside, exposed to precipitation and all the extremes of outdoor temperature, the locks regularly jam.  Sometimes wiggling the key will free up the lock. Sometimes I stick my hand through the bars and put the key in from the other side (you need the key to get in and out of the complex, so the locks are double-sided) and sometimes that works.  Sometimes I eventually give up and walk to the next gate.

On this particular day I was tired and annoyed, and I didn't feel like walking to the next gate.  I wiggled and jiggled the key until the lock slid open.  I went through, and as I proceeded homeward I looked down at my keys, intending to locate the key for the entrance to my building, which is on the same key ring.

Except it wasn't.  I realized that I was holding my work keys.  I had been thinking so hard about work that I took my work keys from my bag.  Physically it bears no resemblance to my home keys.  I have five home-related keys on a big ring, each with a brightly-coloured key cover.  I have two work keys, not covered, on a yellow plastic clip-fob.

I had opened the gate with my work key.  That shouldn't be possible.  The key to my complex has extra security - a second set of teeth carved into it where other keys simply have a smooth groove.  I'm not sure how I got that door open.  It was very odd.


On Friday I visited my much beloved massage therapist.  Her office is on the 29th floor of a 30-storey office building.  There are six elevators which serve the top floors.  It is almost inevitable that I have to wait for an elevator, unless someone else has already arrived before me to summon one.

After my massage, I walked into the hallway where the elevators are located.  As I approached, there was a "DING", the red "down" arrow lit above one set of elevator doors, and the doors slid open.  I had not pressed the call button.  There was no one in the car.  There was no one in the corridor.  There were no cleaners' carts in sight.  It seemed strange to me, but convenient, had I been heading straight down.

I was not.  My plan was to vist the nice, clean, corporate-calibre facilities in the office tower before heading home.  There are washrooms in the mall below, but they are usually disgusting.  I passed the waiting elevator and went around the corner.

On my way back to the elevators from the ladies' room, I again noticed no one in the corridors, and no cleaners' carts anywhere.  I approached the bank of elevators.  I did not get a chance to press the call button.  Once again, there was a "DING", the red "down" arrow lit up, and a set of elevator doors slid open just in time for me to walk straight into the empty car.  It was downright creepy.  I half expected the elevator to take me down to some kind of supernatural underworld, but it did not.


The best odd coincidence was experienced by my friend Val, the bingo and karaoke queen.  After her birthday party last weekend, she happened to be out on her balcony at 2:15 am, having a smoke.  From where she was standing she had a clear view of the entrance to the underground parking garage.  She happened to be staring right at it when the door opened and a tow truck drove out - with her car attached to the back.  She had an extreme WTF moment, and promptly called the police.  Turns out that the tow was a repo man, and it was a case of mistaken car identity.  He had taken the wrong vehicle.  He had snuck into the garage by tailing a resident's car as it went in.  The odds of Val being out on her balcony, staring right at the garage entrance, at 2:15 am when the repo man drove away with her car are pretty impressively against.  I don't know whether to call this lucky or unlucky.  Maybe equal portions of both.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Health Newsletter

This week, work was a challenge.  I can't get into the details, but there were scandals, deadlines, confrontations, staff absences, and critical meetings.  I was doing fine on Monday, even after pushing my health luck at that party, eating cake and staying out late and all.  But the week took it out of me, so I'm at home today, keeping in touch with the office via e-mail.  Fortunately there's sweet f.a. going on over there today, so it all works out.  And Monday is a statutory holiday in Canada, so I get a superlong weekend!

I continue to do sporadic research into my chronic-fatigue-like condition.  I go online and see if I can drum up anything new when I'm not feeling well.  On my good days I just forget about it for a while.

I've had a curious new symptom that appeared at the same time my wheat intolerance spontaneously manifested itself.  It's back pain, but not the type I'm used to.  I've had my share of muscle spasms, but this is not a muscular pain.  There's one particular vertebra, right in the middle my spine, T-something, that hurts under pressure, i.e. if I lean back against a hard surface it hurts.  It gets worse when I'm feeling tired or unwell, and much worse if I eat wheat.  At its worst it's very sensitive; when I lie down on my super-soft pillow-top mattress, the pain makes me say "ow".

A doctor friend of mine poked at it through my shirt and said it didn't feel like anything special.  I said "Am I just getting old?" and she said yes, probably.  It might be arthritis.  I shouldn't worry about it unless I see that the joint is visibly red and swollen.  So that's something for the "hmmmm" files.  I will mention it to my g.p. next time I go in, but it seems to be stable so I don't see the point in making an appointment now.  Do any of you other persons of a certain age experience anything like this?

I found something in my research that seems to correspond to some other symptoms I've had.  It's a condition called "Central Sensitivity Syndrome", although it also goes by other names.  I've seen it defined a few ways.  The more narrow definition refers to a sensitization of the nerves that causes normal touch and pressure to be perceived as pain.  The broader definition, which is supported by several first-person blogs I've been reading by people who have CFS/ME (the naming convention is not yet settled in the literature), refers to an overall neurological sensitization which makes all sensory stimulation more acute, and sometimes uncomfortable or even unbearably stressful.  CSS goes hand in hand with CFS/ME and fibromyalgia, and possibly other conditions.

With regards to pain, fortunately I only have one small area of hypersensitization: the nerves in and around my ears.  If the temperature is at all chilly and there's any wind at all, I need to wear earmuffs or I get excruciating earaches.  I mean, other people are walking around in T-shirts on some days when I'm wearing my earmuffs, if it's cool and sunny but quite windy.  It makes me look like a dork but frankly I'd rather look stupid than suffer through the pain.

I also have trouble with certain styles of glasses, and even certain hats which come down far enough to press on my ears.  I can't wear my current sunglasses for more than 20 minutes before the pain kicks in.  Yes, I suppose I should just get new sunglasses, but the problem is I have to wear the glasses for 15 minutes before I can tell if they're going to trigger the pain.  This makes trying on frames a frustrating process.  Sunglasses tend to be more problematic than regular glasses because they tend to have big, wide arms to block out the sun from the side.

With regards to overall sensory hypersensitivity, I do believe that I qualify.  My levels of sensitivity change, corresponding to how overtired my body and nervous system are on any given day.  On good days I don't like rock concerts and crowds.  On the worst days, days when I'm in the middle of a flare and have very little energy, anything can be overwhelming.  The noise, motion, and vibration of riding in a car can cause my heart rate to skyrocket.  Even eating food that is rich or tasty can be too much, although thankfully that was a phase that I only went through once, for around a week.  I had never heard of anyone else having that kind of reaction, but even with the limited amount of blog reading that I've gotten around to, I have found someone else who has trouble eating due to it being perceived by the body as a stressor.  I never had it as bad as this blogger; I was able to do alright if I stuck to baby food and brown rice for that week.

I try not to research these things obsessively.  It's important to be informed, but it won't help to focus only on my health concerns.  On one hand it's a relief to know that I'm not alone with my bizarre symptoms.  On the other hand it's scary to see how bad things can get.  It's a good reminder to me to take my body's cues seriously and not try to push my luck very often.  I have read many times that people ignored their fatigue and to this they attribute their current state of affairs, which is worse off than where I am.  I am grateful to them for posting their experiences so that I can learn from them.  I am not in any way wiser than these good people, just randomly lucky to have online resources at my disposal that didn't exist back when these other bloggers were starting to have problems.

I don't know if what ails me could correctly be termed Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome with all the capitals, but there are certainly similarities, and either way it can't hurt to respect my body's signals.  I don't get a sore throat or swollen glands when I'm down, which I believe are elements in an official diagnosis.  So, who knows?  Whatever it is, I'm still managing, and if I ever feel sorry for myself, all I have to do is take a look at some of the people who are unable to work, or even housebound, and suddenly my life looks pretty sweet.

P.S. Shortly after posting this I was directed to this recent article defining Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and it certainly does appear that I could qualify as a mild case, if I'm interpreting it correctly.  I will be printing this off for my g.p. to review.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Cake Hangover

Last night I went to Valapalooza, the 45th birthday party of my friend Val, the bingo and karaoke queen.  It was rad.  This time, karaoke came to us.  Val rented the party room of her co-op.  Another friend of hers runs a small business; he has a van full of karaoke equipment, which he set up in the party room.  It was all the fun of public karaoke without having to listen to a lineup of drunken strangers.

Ken and I were the first guests to arrive.  Second was Bob, Val's friend whom I'd met several times before.  I was startled to see him walk in with a bird perched on his hand.  It was Amy, an African Grey parrot.  I've read about African Grey's before.  They're one of the smartest birds known to humans.  They can learn hundreds of words, not just as  mimics, but with some understanding.  When Amy wants something you have, she says "Share with the bird!"

Of course I was completely fascinated by Amy.  She was shy and didn't want her feathers touched, but Bob got her to perch on my hand. I let her stay there for a good half hour, and would have been happy to keep her all night if someone else hadn't wanted a turn.  On of the guys at the party who couldn't remember my name referred to me as the Amy-sitter.  (I considered titling this post "Amy Sat On My Finger", but I thought it might be too vulgar out of context.)

Bob managed to get Amy to demonstrate some of her repertoire.  She's shy around strangers, so he had to coax her.  She whistled at the pretty girls, answered the phone: "Hello?", laughed for us, and did a bizarrely accurate imitation of two beer bottles clinking together.

Once Amy went back to her perch the party was all about karaoke.  Each of us went up in turn to belt out a song, while the audience participated by singing along, dancing, and other shenanigans.  As the evening progressed and drink flowed, the shenanigans got wilder.  Someone had bought some glowing-rainbow-light-sabers from the dollar store, and they were employed in every possible phallic context.  One of the women, a large lady with a strong and gorgeous voice that just about took the roof off the place, stuffed two balloons inside her T-shirt and did a burlesque number that involved much butt-shaking, fake-boob stroking, and ended with her taking a pin and popping both balloons.  I would have paid admission to see that act, I tell you.

It was all great fun.  Even Ken got up and sang.  His best number was "Rock This Town" by the Stray Cats.  I got the most props for "We Belong" by Pat Benetar.

There were bowls of chips and party mix scattered around the room.  I was on my sixth pretzel before I remembered that I shouldn't be eating them.  The wheat thing, as you know.  Anyway, I stopped, but within half an hour I was feeling no ill effects, so when the big, goopy, delicious-looking chocolate birthday cake was served, I took a small piece.  Maaaaaaan, that cake was superfantastic!

Sadly, I got a cake hangover.  All I drank all night was fizzy water with lime.  It was the cake (on top of the pretzels; I'm sure it's a cumulative thing) that did me in.  Last night I had a little chest congestion, but it wasn't too bad.  I thought I got away with it.  But by this morning my chest was all heavy and achey and blech.  I coughed and coughed and couldn't get it clear.  Eventually I gave in and took some cough syrup, which helped.

Unfortunately, although that cake was mighty fine and I only half regret eating it, on the balance it wasn't worth it.  Three minutes tops of cake enjoyment vs. hours of feeling gross the next day... it's not a good bargain.  Add to that the fact that I'm always trying to keep my physical stress load to a minimum, so as not to trigger a fatigue episode, and I think that might've been the last chocolate cake I'll ever eat.  At least I really paid attention to it, just in case it came to this.  At least (*sniff*) I had a chance to say goodbye.

To end on a positive note:  It was a fabulous party, and I enjoyed every minute of it! :-)

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Awful Waffle

There are not many adventures happening in Sparkland.  I do not object to this state of affairs, because I am happy to live a quiet, peaceful existence.  By nature I am like an 88-year-old trapped in a 38-year-old's body.  Maybe that's what people mean when they tell me I'm an "Old Soul".

Last Sunday, the day after the patio party, I had plans to meet my sister for lunch. It was supposed to be a scorcher, but I figured I only had some short distances to walk between home and transit and the restaurant.  I'd be in air conditioning the rest of the time.  Right?  Wrong, of course! 

First I got all turned around trying to find the place where I'd agreed to meet my sister.  The building numbers on the east and west sides of the street were 170 numbers off from each other and I was walking along the wrong side of the street.  I'm not sure who is responsible for that stupid state of affairs, but really, isn't it possible to fix it?  After walking an extra four blocks in the 35 degree heat (that's over 100 F for you Americans) with God-knows-what humidex on top of that, I was severely disappointed to find out that the restaurant was not air conditioned.

I repeat: Restaurant.  Not Air Conditioned.  Not only that, but the only free table was right next to their open kitchen, where they were cooking waffles and frying omelettes.  Lord have mercy!  Amazingly, I tolerated the heat, and managed to enjoy both my sister and my gluten-free waffles (the reason for our pilgrimage to that specific place). 

I did worry that I might not make it home without passing out.  There was a little flutter to my heartbeat here and there, but I made it.  I was comforted to know that if I passed out in my neighbourhood someone would probably find me and call for paramedics.  It's not one of those neighbourhoods in which you just assume people on the sidewalk are drunks and step over them.

After that little adventure (if you will allow "going out for waffles" to be classified as an adventure) I didn't do much all week except go to work and home again and try to stay cool.  All y'all know my delicate health requires much coddling, and therefore I made sure that I stayed as stress-free as possible.  It's working.  I'm all good.

Incidentally, the waffles weren't awful.  I just couldn't resist the rhyme.  In fact, they were super-duper, and as soon as the weather becomes more hospitable I intend to go back to the weird, hipster, eco-guiltfree restaurant for more.  If you're planning to stalk me there, better wait until October.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Summer Sun

The sun and I don't get along. I appreciate it's ability to bring life and warmth to our good planet, Earth, but I'd rather not have much direct exposure personally.  I do not photosynthesize.

Rather, I wilt in the sun. I burn, and I swoon. Being out at midday without a hat for even a few minutes makes me dizzy. I swear the sun's radioactive rays slant straight into my brain and cause cascading synaptic fission.  One of my childhood memories consists of lying on my bed, skin burning, as my mother lays wet tea bags all over my body. This remedy was supposed to "draw out the heat" after my summer camp counsellor allowed me to be out all afternoon without sunscreen. It didn't work.

Melanoma runs on both sides of my family. In every generation at least one person has been killed by melanoma around or before the age of 40.

I cover up.  Sunscreen, long sleeves, hats (I have a collection of them). Being indoors is the simplest solution. And considering that this summer is supposed to be extra-hot, I am that much more willing to stay inside. Summer becomes a bright, aesthetically pleasing version of winter: a case of cabin fever surrounded by blossoms instead of snowflakes.

Yesterday, I spent 2 hours on a sports bar patio in the mid-afternoon. This was done in the name of workplace solidarity. A colleague organized this outing, and I felt that it would be best to make an appearance. Reluctantly, I slathered myself with SPF30 and braved the heat. I sipped ginger ale from a plastic beer-logo cup and held ice cubes from the Coronita bucket against my wrists and the back of my neck.

The patio filled to capacity in short order. The clientele was almost all white with an average age of 26. The girls wore baseball caps and skimpy tops with bra-straps sticking out. The guys wore oversized board shorts and flip-flops. They all talked loudly, lounging in the sun on wooden benches or standing six deep by the bar, waiting for more beer. They all had sweaty hair.

My work group was a nice bunch, but the place was so loud and it was so hot that we couldn't keep up the necessary energy to maintain a workable conversation. The server accidentally kicked over one girl's bottle of beer and didn't bring her a replacement. No one bothered to confront him. After 2 hours I felt I'd done my duty and retreated. Maybe next year we could meet inside, where it's quiet and air-conditioned?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Other Side of Mom

Recently I posted a rant about my Mom, stating that she was driving me crazy with her Drama Queen ways.  Of course, as soon as I had done that she found an opportunity to demonstrate all her best qualities to me, and I felt I had been a bit harsh.  AUGH THE GUILT!

(I have always preferred the Charlie Brown official spelling of "augh!" to "aaaaahhh!"  It has more character.)

So now I must redress the balance.  By no means do I retract anything that I wrote previously.  I am simply adding to the portrait to make it more whole.

Firstly, my mother has always fed me well.  It's not only that I never went hungry.  It's that she went to great pains to feed me the best food available.  For many years, store-bought cookies were not allowed in our house.  Soda was only permitted on special occasions.  Even when she was a single mother living on a shoe-string budget, she never brought home fast-food take-out (or any take-out for that matter) or frozen TV dinners.  I had a hot breakfast every winter morning, a homemade lunch pre-packed the night before, and a from-scratch dinner.  She got a lot of mileage out of the slow cooker.

Not only was her food nutritious, but it was and is very tasty.  She makes a mean beef brisket, and mighty tasty roast chicken.  She also makes the best birthday cakes on Earth.

Which brings me to parties: always the happiest time in our house.  She would cook up a big feast, and task me with setting the table with polished silver candlesticks and fancy napkins.  The whole family came over around once a month to eat and laugh together.  Of course sometimes there were tensions, but mostly everyone had a pretty good time.  You couldn't eat my mom's food and stay in a bad mood.

She also threw fantastic birthday parties for me when I was a kid.  She planned games for the kids to play, helped me to fill the loot bags, and made Hamburger Men for lunch: a burger patty head, mashed potato afro, pickle slice eyes, a ketchup smile, and carrot stick body, arms and legs.

My mom was a librarian, so she encouraged my love of reading, which has been lifelong.  We still lend each other books, since our tastes overlap.  As soon as I was old enough I loved to go to the library to pick out my own reading material, but she was always happy to supplement it with interesting fare. 

For instance, I was laid up with a bad cold when I was 12 years old.  She brought me a big old hardcover book called The Microbe Hunters.  This book is a history of the development of microbiology first published in 1926.  Just the kind of thing you'd expect a 12-year-old girl to be interested in.  I remember reading about the scientists who filled an arena with sheep and experimented on them by injecting them with viruses.  It was kind of disgusting but I did read the whole book and was glad in the end that I did.

More recently my mom loaned me a book on the history of glass.  Again I was somewhat nonplussed at the choice of subject, but I read that book too and now I know more than I ever thought there was to know about glass.  (Apparently the way that large plate glass windows are made is to float a wide, shallow river of molten glass over a river of molten metal, and at the end of the line the glass is cooled and the metal is recycled back into the river.  The production line can't be shut down at night or all the metal and glass would cool and solidify.  There, aren't you glad that you know that?)  I credit my mom with my endless interest for random knowledge.

Both of us also read books with more obvious interest.  Waiting on my shelf on loan from my mom is The Hare with the Amber Eyes.  I also know that she received a copy of The Immoratal Life of Henrietta Lacks for her birthday, and I'm angling to borrow that one a.s.a.p.

My Mom has the capacity for a deep appreciation of art and nature.  She is a romantic, and an idealist.  She is very intelligent, but also very modest.  She has a vast range of interests and is always studying, the better to be prepared for her volunteer position as a docent at the Royal Ontario Museum.  Our best times are when we go out exploring together, having mini-adventures at local historical sights or poking around in the shops in unfamiliar neighbourhoods.

I hope that my Mom and I have more time to spend together appreciating our better qualities.  There's definitely no one else quite like her.

Friday, July 8, 2011


I stopped colouring my hair a few months ago.

It all started when my stylist went a little crazy and cut the back and sides of my hair so short that the scalp showed through.  Not my favourite look.  I like short, but I don't like scalp, at least not my own, which is a pasty greyish-white.

Hair that short is too short to colour.  I would have basically ended up staining my scalp dark red, which would probably have looked pretty awful.  So I skipped my colour date.  Next time I returned to have my hair cut, I had every intention of going home to colour it the next day, but then my stylist complimented my natural colour.  He didn't wax poetic or anything, he just said it was "good" or "nice" or something like that.  So the next day, since I was feeling lazy, I skipped the colour again.

Then I talked to Ken.  He seemed not to be at all concerned about whether or not I coloured my hair.  I said "but I have greys!" and he said "where?" and I dug around to find the bunch that are congregated right at the front and centre of my head.  At that time the silver roots were still hiding under a thatch of coloured ends.  He made a dismissive hand-flopping gesture and said "mmnnyeeeh" and "whatever!".

Colouring one's own hair is not a horrifying task when it's as short as mine, but it's not fun either.  It's a hassle.  First, cover the bathroom counter with scrap paper so that falling drips won't stain it.  Next, put on latex gloves and cover the arms of your glasses in tin foil.  Then a layer of conditioner goes around your hairline so that dripping colour won't stain your skin (hopefully).  (There's nothing better than finding out too late that you've dyed the tip of your left ear a rich shade of mahogany.)

Then you mix up the two different types of goop in a bowl, apply liberally all over with a dollar-store pastry brush, massage it down to the roots, and set the timer.  Be careful not to get goop on your clothing/sofa/walls/husband. Twenty-five minutes later you can wash it all out, clean up the bowl and brush, and get on with your life.  Like I said, not terrible, but there's around 45 minutes every five weeks that I could use for other things.

(Cost is not an issue.  I buy my tubes of goo directly from a beauty supply outlet.  Each dose of colour costs around $3.  But I do feel guilty about washing all that crap down the drain.  It can't be good for the water supply.)

Long story short, I stopped colouring.  Those white roots are growing longer and longer.  At my next haircut they're going to be revealed for the whole world to see.  I'm hoping that letting my silver flash will make me look badass and sophisticated.  I do not jest: I've seen a handful of super-fashionable women pulling off the no-colour look so well that it left me stunned.

And if not, I still have my tubes of goop and my pastry brush.  It'll only take 45 minutes to banish all those greys once again.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Old House

My mother and step-dad are in the process of selling their house, my childhood home.  I lived there for 22 years from when I was 6 months old.  I wonder how I'm going to feel when it's actually sold.  Right now I'm not feeling overly sentimental.  The home I remember from my early childhood has long since slipped away.

The first seven years, before my mother remarried, were the best.  The house was a cute little 3-bedroom, built just after WWII.  We had a sheltered front porch with an overhang; a big, open back deck; a big backyard; and a bay window in the dining room. 

When my step-dad moved in, the first thing he did was renovate the house.  He chopped off the back wall and put on a two-story addition (basement and first floor).  The renovation took months and for some time we had to live with my grandparents.  Everything ran late and over budget.  The contractor (a "friend" of the family) hired incompetent workers and used cheap materials.  Later on we had a bug problem in the basement.  Eventually when the walls were opened up to deal with a plumbing leak, we found that the construction workers had shoved their lunch garbage into the walls to rot, which is what attracted all the bugs.

Everything familiar and pretty about the house was ripped up and changed.  The wood-framed bay window was replaced by a flat modern window whose metal frame rusted.  The sofa set, which had been upholstered in a sweet floral pattern, was replaced with a sofa set upholstered in a ghastly poopy-brown.  The new back deck was ugly, and the backyard was cut down to half its former size.  It was all horrible, cheap-looking, dark, and unpleasant.

The atmosphere in the house also changed after my step-dad moved in.  My mom, step-dad and I fought almost constantly.  If we weren't fighting, we were sulking and avoiding each other.  All my memories of the house in that incarnation are bad ones. 

Just after I moved out at age 23, my folks re-decorated, so it looked a little more cheerful.  When that happened, I lost the feeling that it was "my" house.  None of my memories matched up with the new decor.

The neighbourhood has also vastly changed since 1973.  Back in the day it was a suburb, or at least a mid-urb.  Now uptown is the new downtown.  There is a mall, lots of office buildings, high rise condos and rental appartments, and most of the family-owned businesses have been replaced by chain stores.  Traffic is terrible.  It's grimy and crowded. There are more and more monster homes on the side streets.  I feel the area has lost much of its former charm.

I may get teary and nostalgic once the house is sold, but right now I feel that this move is happening at the right time, perhaps even a little later than it should have.  I can't wait to see how the house looks when the staging makeover is complete.  That will be wild!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Canada Day

Canada Day, July 1st, is Canada's Fourth of July, complete with fireworks and a statutory holiday.  I got up early, surveyed the brilliant sunshine outside, and immediately went online to find out what events our fine city of Toronto would be hosting to celebrate the day.

Ken and I took the train to Harbourfront.  The event listing stated that the celebrations being held there were free.  Yes free!  And I can tell you exactly why it was free.  Because nothing was happening.  There was nothing going on except hordes of people milling around, browsing at the outdoor mall (which is open all summer long) and providing record business for all the local hot dog carts.

The only entertainment we came across was the buskers, each of whom had such a massive crowd gathered that it was impossible to even see what type of act was occurring.  There was a stage set up at the centre of the grassy area by the outdoor mall, but it was empty.

The grassy area isn't even made of real grass anymore.  It used to be.  Granted, the grass was kind of scruffy, and there were a lot of bald, dusty patches, but at least it was quasi-natural.  Now there is a spongey carpet of fake grass in its place.  It doesn't look like real grass, or like any surface that properly belongs outside.  It just looks weird.  I'd almost rather it be concrete, because at least that's just itself, and not a creepy, ill-advised fake of nature.

We gave up on the crowds after a short while, and started walking north.  We didn't have a plan in mind, but a helpful bird provided a purpose to guide our wanderings.  The bird shat on Ken.  It wasn't a big goose plopper, just the wee, delicate drop of a sparrow.  However, it dripped from Ken's shirt onto his pants, grossing him out to the Nth degree.

At first he tried scrubbing it off with some water from our water bottle and a page of the Employment Weekly free newspaper, but that only succeeded in smearing the newspaper's black ink all over his beige pants.  He then determined that he must buy a new shirt and pants and change into them immediately.  Fortunately, the Eaton Centre mall, deemed a tourist attraction, is open on stat holidays, and we were only a few blocks away.

Old Navy to the rescue.  Ken walked to the cash in brand new clothes with the tags still dangling under his arm and at his waistband.  I had to peel the sizing sticker off his butt.  We saved his dirty shirt to bring home and wash, but his old pants went in the trash.  It was a blessing in disguise as far as I'm concerned, because those old pants, with the chewed up cuffs and the red ink-stain on the thigh, should have been condemned months ago.

Another benefit is that we discovered that Ken looks great in green.  I've never seen him wear a green shirt before, but that's what Old Navy had in his size, so that's what he bought.  A lovely, summer-leaf green.  Thanks, bird!